A town in Wisconsin has a novel way to deal with bullying: bill the parents.
Under a new ordinance, police will notify parents in writing of a bullying incident involving their kids. If a further incident occurs within 90 days of the initial notice, police will then fine parents. With court costs, the bill could run up to $124.
A similar measure was passed in another Wisconsin town. Instead of placing the onus on schools to deal with bullying incidents, parents are held accountable for the actions of their children. And what better way to get parents' attention than to hit them where it hurts most: their wallets.
It's an interesting strategy, but I would argue, a misguided one.
Of course parents play a crucial role, and they need to work in tandem with schools to address bullying. But financial penalties aren't the answer.
Assuming you can just slap a fine on a parent and the bullying will magically go away grossly oversimplifies the complexities of the situation.
And it does nothing to get at the root behavioural causes that drive one child (or several) to target another. A fine does nothing, in fact, to help any of the children involved. All it does is punish mom and dad, and perpetuate the notion that bullying is somehow a reflection of a parent's abilities.
Well, having a child who is aggressive or a "bully" isn't a sure sign that the parents are to blame. Neither is it a given that they lack the tools to positively discipline their children (and for those who do, levying a fine won't improve their parenting skills).
While it seems like another step closer to the nanny state, UK Prime Minister David Cameron's idea of introducing mandatory parenting "classes" is probably a more intelligent strategy to combat bullying and other behavioural issues.
Cameron at least seems to understand that what today's parents need is more support, not yet more judgment.